A little less than a year ago, Telco Americana had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Bissonette, the marketing director of Paul Bunyan Communications (PBC), a telecommunications co-op. In that interview, we learned that PBC is cooking up some pretty cool stuff: “PBC announced the launch of GigaZone, a project that—when completed in five to six years—will deliver fiber connectivity throughout a 5,000-square-mile area.” Similar to Google Fiber in terms of capacity and bandwidth, GigaZone has gigabit speeds, giving its users the power to download an HD movie in two seconds, according to Bissonette. “The GigaZone provides Internet capabilities unsurpassed by any other rural provider or region in the country. The GigaZone not only provides the capacity to handle current communication technologies quickly and efficiently, it also meets the increasing demands of the next generation of broadband innovations,” explained Gary Johnson, PBC CEO/general manager, in a Bemidji Pioneer article.
Of course, we talked to the PBC marketing director nearly a year ago. So, what’s new? Well, PBC’s customers didn’t have to wait too long for one of the best fiber networks in the country to get underway. According to the Bemidji Pioneer, PBC activated GigaZone about three months ago, and its rollout has been similar to the speeds of its Internet: lightning fast. “When we announced this initiative back in September we made a commitment to bring the GigaZone to our entire service area which we know will take a few years. That said, I did not anticipate we would be able to reach so many locations so quickly,” said Johnson in the Bemidji Pioneer.
How quickly? PBC recently upgraded 2,800 locations to the network, which means that GigaZone is now available to “more than 7,300 locations including all of the cooperative’s service area of rural Park Rapids, the Trout Lake Township east of Grand Rapids and areas of Bemidji.” That’s all in a mere three months, and it’s not the end of PBC’s efforts. The co-op will continue upgrades through the remainder of the year, reaching “more than 12,000 additional locations in Bemidji, Cass Lake, Park Rapids and Grand Rapids.”
These efforts make Gigazone one of the largest networks of its kind in the country. Perhaps that’s why the company was one of six finalists vying for the inaugural Leading Lights award for Most Innovative Gigabit Broadband Service. According to the Leading Lights website, “the award will go to the communications service provider (fixed, cable, utility, municipality) that has launched the most innovative gigabit broadband service offering during the past year.” And PBC has certainly done that. By the end of 2015, GigaZone will span 5,000 square miles of north central Minnesota geography, making it one of the largest gigabit networks in the US. “The community transformation potential of an initiative of that scale truly defines the Gigabit Cities movement,” reports the Leading Lights website. So, did PBC take home the award? You betcha! The company received the honor on June 8 at an awards dinner at the Chicago Field Museum.
Congrats, PBC! That’s fantastic news. Of course, the real winners are your customers. Here’s hoping the entire US can soon experience the blazing fast speeds and connectivity capabilities that Paul Bunyan country enjoys.